EAST BAY CITIZEN. EVERYWHERE SINCE 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

County's Early Agenda still Sets Tone of Debate


>>>THE BUREAUCRATS AND ADMINISTRATORS<<<

EDEN CEO GEORGE BISCHALANEY The mercurial executive has been relatively quiet recently. Most believe he is merely Sutter Health's foot soldier receiving orders from headquarters in Sacramento. At an Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting in June, he was pressured by Supervisor Nate Miley to negotiate turning over operations of San Leandro Hospital to another health care vendor. Bischalaney reluctantly agreed, but reports in The Citizen say they flat out refused Prime's advances in person and one with a hybrid model in mind. One of the more comedic moments of this entire story occurred at the Sept. 3 Eden Township meeting where residents were shutout of the meeting and Bischalaney reportedly threatened to call the sheriff on the group. QUOTABLE On approving the environmental impact report, he struck an ominous tone. “Any delay is a problem. Candidly, who knows beyond that. I cannot assure you [the rebuild of Eden Hospital] will pull through.”

DR. MILES ADLER Sources say the former chief of staff of Eden Medical Center and San Leandro Hospital was burned by Sutter's stated intention to keep the hospital open if it could turn a profit. Once a backer of Sutter, Adler is now one of the more vociferous voices charging the hospital chain with cooking the books at San Leandro Hospital and facilitating its financial demise. Adler is no friend of the powers at City Hall, either. He called San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos "clueless" over accusations doctors outsource medical procedures to outside vendors. Adler also criticized the absence of some members of the city council during a recent forum on the hospital hosted by state Sen. Ellen Corbett and wondered aloud why five of six members believed the hospital was not an important enough topic to attend the meeting. QUOTABLE "It is very disappointing when one thinks there are five city council people who don't think it's important enough to come to a forum of this nature with their own constituents sitting in the audience."

DAVID KEARS The recently retired director of Alameda County Health Services still casts a long shadow over the possible future of San Leandro Hospital. It is Kears' analysis the county needs an influx of rehabilitation beds to be a fully functioning hospital system. When one of the current such facilities at Farimont Hospital proved too costly to seismically upgrade, the possibility of converting San Leandro Hospital became a tantalizing option. Universally recognized as one of the most knowledgeable people on the subject, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors welcomed the plan absent any other offers to operate what was believed to be a hospital swimming in the red. Critics now question the plan since data supplied by Sutter on the hospital's finances and usage revealed more of a need for its emergency room services than initially believed. Kears has also been critical of San Leandro's lack of a plan for their hospital similar to the takeover by the city of Alameda and their facility which was financed with an annual $300 parcel tax. QUOTABLE "We need a firm commitment, not a we'll explore it or not anything. Go to the city council. Ask to take an action--make a decision. Go to the district. Have the district look at their resources. Put real money on the table. Take actions that result in actually saving hospitals as oppose to shifting responsibility onto someone else."

ALEX BRISCOE As the current interim director of Alameda County Health Services, the youthful Briscoe quickly changed the tenor of the agency's beliefs after Kears' retirement. Sources say moving rehabilitation services from Fairmont to San Leandro Hospital was conceived under Briscoe's watch. Insiders say he was reluctant to stand by the plan's merits under Kears because of the political ramifications which eventually flared to this day. As acting director, Briscoe's comments at the Alameda County Board of Supervisor meeting in July corroborated the widespread belief Sutter's numbers regarding the usage of the hospital's emergency room was understated and touched off a debate among supporters of saving the hospital that its financial numbers were also faulty. QUOTABLE "Sutter has told us that Prime is a non-starter, period,"

CALIFORNIA NURSES ASSOCIATION In an age, where the attention of the local press is perfunctory, the nurses union has been a catalyst for drumming up community support for saving its member's jobs and a community asset. Always good for a biting quote, representatives for the union have screamed for the resignation of health care directors at meetings, organized chanting picket lines in front of the Board of Supervisors chambers and distributed literature across the city. It is hard to imagine local politicians having enough cache to fight for the hospital without the presence of the union and its members making their voices consistently heard. QUOTABLE "It's been a community effort with health care workers and doctors. Everybody was just sounding the alarm. At first, it wasn't happening. It was just falling on deaf ears, but obvious now the community is in alert mode,” said labor rep Mike Brannan.

DR. PREM REDDY/PRIME
The maverick Southern California hospital baron arrived on the scene in June with much fanfare and exited without ever being heard again. His company, Prime Healthcare has gobbled up 13 failing hospitals in the state and claims to have quickly turned around the financial prospects. Prime's business model of funneling patients through its ER concerns many in the industry who feel the state will eventually clamp down on the company. Some believe its penchant for cancelling existing insurance agreements will further cripple the state's failing health system. The addition of Prime to the San Leandro Hospital question, in hindsight, may have given supporters of the hospital valuable ammunition in the following months showing another company wanted to operate the hospital and gave the county pause for backing a plan to move rehab to the hospital when another plan existed. Twice in the past months, Prime has attempted to negotiate with Sutter to a resounding no, but still sends a representative to nearly every public meeting. QUOTABLE “I can turn a failed community hospital into a successful community resource."

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